More than 50,000 people have now signed a petition that will be sent to David Cameron calling on the Government to make it easier for individuals to get empty homes back into use. The campaign is part of Channel 4’s series the Great British Property Scandal.
The Great Property Scandal is a week-long series of programmes that highlight the consequences of the housing crisis. Architect and TV presenter George Clarke’s segment on empty homes that aired recently, threw the spotlight on the million homes lying empty in the UK, at a time when two million families are on the waiting list.
He argued that bringing the 350,000 long-term empty properties back into use would be a cheap way to house thousands of families.
Recently Mr Clarke tried to convince the Government to launch a low-cost borrowing fund that would allow tenants and landlords to get some money to do a property up and offset the costs with rent income. In an interview with, he said: “So if you’ve got an empty property that needs work done to it, you can personally apply to get some of those funds at a low cost borrowing.
“If that was a long-term scheme and people borrowed against it, they could just do the property up and offset the costs with the slight increase in rent to pay the loan back. Which basically means the money goes back into the system.”
The show featured a young couple who convinced their council to let an empty home below the market rent. Thanks to that, the couple spent a few months and just £3,000 to do the property up.
Mr Clarke also took the campaign to the Tory party conference where he tried to convince the country’s top politicians to sign his empty homes petition. Housing minister Grant Shapps gladly accepted while secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles refused instead offering George Clarke a hug instead.
Channel 4 cameras also followed a young veteran who struggled to find a council home and was forced to sleep on a couch in his mother’s house while his visiting son slept on an armchair. The show ended with a family of ten who moved into a large, previously empty home in Birmingham. Mr Clarke and his team spent seven weeks deconverting the house from three flats to a large family home with six bedrooms to fit the demand in the area.
Mr Clarke has argued that building a new house of that size would have cost a housing association more than £200,000, when it cost only half of that to refurbish the property to good, energy-efficient standards.